10 minutes with actress Lara McDonnell on Disney’s Artemis Fowl out now
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- Published on Friday, 12 June 2020 16:48
- Last Updated on 12 June 2020
- Monica Costa
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Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw), a 12-year-old devil-may-care Irish criminal mastermind, kidnaps the fairy LEPrecon officer Holly Short for ransom to fund rescuing his father. Once a transaction is made, they go onto a hunt for the evil pixie Opal Koboi and rush to save Artemis Fowl senior from the Arctic. Artemis’ unimaginable brainpower is only rivalled by his willingness to flout the rules.
When Artemis Fowl, Sr. (Colin Farrell), a trader of rare antiques and collectibles, disappears in a mysterious helicopter accident in the South China Seas, rumours abound that he had been stealing priceless artefacts. Even though his father was away a lot on business, Artemis Jr. just can’t believe he would be capable of such a thing. After all, this is the man who with whom he has spent hours, listening to his amazing stories about the ancient civilization that exists beneath the surface of the Earth—an amazingly advanced world of fairies, goblins, trolls, dwarves and other magical beings.
Until now, Artemis never really considered these to be more than folk tales. But that all changes when he’s contacted by a mysterious, hooded figure, who tells him she has kidnapped his father and will die unless Artemis brings her in three days’ time the Aculos: the ultimate fairy device which will give her a power beyond that of any other creature, magical or human. In order to locate and steal the highly-coveted Aculos, Artemis Jr. must infiltrate the secretive, reclusive Lower Elements, where these otherworldly creatures live. To accomplish this, he concocts an ingenious and highly dangerous plan–to kidnap and hold for ransom Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), a fierce member of the fairy special forces, LEPrecon.
It seems that Holly’s father, LEP official Beachwood Short, has disappeared and is presumed dead after being accused of stealing the Aculos from the fairies and pronounced a traitor. Since Beachwood was last seen in the vicinity of Fowl Manor, Artemis deduces that Holly will defy all fairy laws and travel there in order to find out the truth, which she does.
Holding her prisoner in Fowl Manor, Artemis finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies, who pull out all the stops to retrieve her. Leading the charge is Commander Root (Judi Dench), the shrewd, cagey chief of the fairy reconnaissance forces. To penetrate the Manor and rescue Holly, Root enlists the help of crafty oversized dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), a criminal with a penchant for breaking and entering.
Desperate to rescue his father and restore his family’s standing, Artemis must employ every tool in his brilliant mind in order to outsmart the most powerful civilization in existence.
Interview with Lara McDonnell
Lara McDonnell (who plays Holly Short) made her acting debut in 2014 in the independent feature “Love, Rosie,” playing Young Rosie opposite Lily Collins and Sam Claflin. Following that, she beat out hundreds of young actresses and was the first Irish actress to land the lead role of Matilda in the hit West End musical “Matilda The Musical” during the 2015-2016 theatre season, a role she reprised briefly in December 2016. Her other credits include playing a young Anne Brontë in the BBC television movie “To Walk Invisible,” written and directed by Sally Wainwright, and Alannah in the Irish independent feature “The Delinquent Season” opposite Cillian Murphy.
Q: Tell us, how did you hear about this role? Were you familiar with the “Artemis Fowl” books?
Lara McDonnell: I read the books when I was maybe 10 because I’d just finished the “Harry Potter” books and wanted something still magical world-y. My agent called and said he got me an audition, but then I realised it was for the role of Holly Short, and that’s when I knew this film was going to be absolutely massive. I did one audition in Dublin and then after that we came to London where I met Ferdia (Shaw) for the first time. After that we did screen tests at Longcross Studios outside London and then I found out that I got the part and I completely lost it. I can’t tell you how much I wanted it…I wanted it really badly! I was such a big fan of the books and I knew it was for Disney, so I knew it was going to be a big deal.
Q: How was it working with Kenneth Branagh?
Lara McDonnell: I knew him mainly as Gilderoy Lockhart from the “Harry Potter” films, and I’m a huge “Harry Potter” fan. I knew that he’d done loads of theatre and that he did Shakespeare and had directed “Cinderella” and “Thor,” which I absolutely loved, so I was really excited because I knew it was going to be really, really cool. I knew he was going to be able to bring this story to life. He’s incredible as a director…he gives us direction as we’re shooting, so he’ll kind of narrate over us so we can react appropriately in the scene, which really helps, because in real life you’re reacting to what’s happening and when he’s talking to you, it’s like it’s actually happening. He has the most incredible visions and he’s always coming up with new ideas.
Q: Tell us about your character, Holly Short.
Lara McDonnell: So Holly is an 84-year-old fairy and like a police officer in the fairy underworld. She absolutely adores action and she’s a bit of a rebel. When we meet her she’s not in the best place. She’s a bit lonely, but she’s kind of accepted it at this point. She is put on prisoner transport, which is a mind-numbing job that she absolutely despises. She thinks she doesn’t deserve to be promoted and at this point will do just about anything to show that she can be a proper captain. And she can lead people and do her job properly because she absolutely loves doing her job.
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the story?
Lara McDonnell: Artemis Fowl is basically a child genius. He lives in this huge house and his family is very wealthy. Then Artemis’ dad goes missing and this completely throws Artemis. He knows that he has to get his dad back and he will go to whatever lengths or do whatever it takes to get him back. Holly is an elf in the fairy world and she is like a police officer. She’s always had quite a tough time because her dad did something horrible, so she’s always been compared to her dad. She just wants to do what’s right, no matter what the cost, and she wants to do more, but she’s stuck doing a clock-in-clock-out job rather than getting in on the action. They meet when Artemis decides in order to get his dad back, he needs to pay a ransom, so he kidnaps Holly. But he doesn’t realise that the fairies are much bigger thing than the thought they would be so it’s not as simple.
Q: The story is set in Ireland. Was that important to you?
Lara McDonnell: I am from Dublin, and Ireland is a really big, important part of the book, and not only because Eoin Colfer (the book’s author) is from Ireland, but because the story is based around magic. And I feel like, when anybody tries to think of some place really magical, you immediately go to Ireland because our legends and our mythology is based all around like fairies and the fairy people. And we still have quite a few people who visit the fairy forts we have, which are still a really big thing here, like leprechauns. We’re very true in our ways of remaining faithful to the ancient times and we’re very connected to our history and our folklore.
Q: What can you tell us about the relationship between your character and the character of Artemis Fowl, played by Ferdia Shaw?
Lara McDonnell: So at the beginning when she’s just been kidnapped, she despises him, not only because he has done all this to put the fairy world in danger, but because he’s cocky and he’s arrogant, and that really, really bothers her. But he’s also right…he’s done his research, and she can’t get over the fact that this child, not only a human, but a child, has managed to pull all of this off, so she’s inclined to hate him. Then throughout the story, she kind of realises they need to work together for everything to happen: he needs one thing to happen, she needs one thing to happen, and the only way they can both get what they want is if they work together. We come to find out that they actually have a lot in common despite being from two completely different worlds. They both have trouble with their dads, they are both trying to prove themselves and they will both go to the end of the world to do what they think is right.
Ferdia is so sweet…he kind of became my little brother in a way. We have a lot in common. We both love shows like “Stranger Things” and “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” and sci-fi in general. We spent a lot of time together doing tutoring and school work and we kind of lived together at the beginning of production because we were both staying at the same hotel. We saw each other at work and then we went back to the hotel and we’d have dinner together. We’d have breakfast together and we always hung out together.
Q: What can you tell us about Commander Root, played by Dame Judi Dench?
Lara McDonnell: I first met her a couple of weeks before filming began, which was a really incredible experience. When I first met her, I was so overwhelmed and excited because this was Dame Judi Dench. So I went to shake her hand and she gave me a hug, which made me tear up a little. She’s so lovely and she’s so down to earth and so totally normal. Getting to work with someone as experienced and as lovely as her was really an honour…it’s the stuff of dreams.
Commander Root is Holly’s boss…she oversees the police in the fairy world. She understands that Root is her boss, but she always speaks her mind so she has to tread carefully. She understands what Holly’s been through with her dad and that she’s still going through that and she is hard on her, but only because she wants her to do well. In fact, she is quietly rooting for her to overcome all the people who were talking about her dad and to show that she really can be an amazing officer.
Q: What can you tell us about Mulch Diggums, the character played by Josh Gad?
Lara McDonnell: Mulch Diggums is a dwarf, and dwarves in the magical world of Haven City are able to unhitch their jaws and digest dirt and be able to tunnel, and then, of course, they have to pass it out through their behinds. He is like the comedian amongst everything serious, and he is wonderfully portrayed by Josh Gad, who is insanely talented. The first scene I did with him wasn’t actually a proper scene…it was just improvised together to see what we would look like together, and this was ages before we began filming and it was the most funny thing I’ve ever done in my life. We were trying so hard not to crack up the whole time. He just knows the character so well. But Mulch is always silly and he’s funny and that’s why I think he’s a lot of people’s favourite character, because he’s always there to bring the fun, and he’s kind of like insane and crazy, but really funny. Josh is just great.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums